Why casual dining is not just a metropolitan trend

Do you love eating out, but dread the fast food stampede? Don’t mind dabbling in some fresh dining, but aren’t so hot on slow service? Casual dining is most likely your best match!

Aussies are falling in love with eateries that provide a unique dining experience with a casual feel. In between fast food and restaurant dining, casual dining precincts are popping up in the major cities around Australia.

In Queensland, for instance, real estate business Colliers International reported in 2015 that retailers were increasing their casual dining floor space from 50sq m to 1000 sq m.

"The casual dining precincts tend to be located within major regional shopping centres creating a dining experience that retains the customers within the precinct for a lot longer than a takeaway option would," says Kym Thrift, associate director of retail leasing at Colliers International.

Hospitality magazine reports the opening of a $20m dining and retail precinct in June this year in Perth, a retail hub combining modern architecture, heritage buildings, art and space.

Mad Mex opened Cantina de Mad Mex last year, which is the casual yet classy dining concept to hit the ground running. It’s a bar and eatery together, and the coolest place to grab a bite and a drink.

Cantina means bar in Spanish, and is designed to be relaxed, informal environment to have your favourite mojito and beloved Mexican dishes and snacks. It isn’t fast food, but service is quick under the model.

And the great news is that this is as perfectly suited to Australia’s regional towns as it is to the big smoke. In fact, everyone’s favourite Mexican chose to launch this chilled concept out of town.

Regional cities are hungry for the new, casual dining experiences, and Cantina de Mad Mex in Westfield Kotara is the litmus test.  

“We are finding the consumer is drawn to the larger centres in metro markets and then cannot wait to get home and tell friends about the Cantina experience,” says Michael Savvas, national franchise sales manager at Mad Mex Fresh Mexican Grill.

“This has happened at Westfield Kotara which is generating record enquiries. It’s all about the experience and one blog is amplified to thousands,’ says Savvas.

With seating for 80 people in its 160sqm footprint (130 inside and 30 outside), Cantina de Mad Mex in regional Kotara entices diners to savour their experience.

“That’s why today we are eagerly awaiting Casuarina in Darwin, Dubbo in NSW and the Sunshine Coast,” says Savvas.

So the smoke has cleared – regional cities crave casual dining.

Craigieburn, Coffs Harbour, Westlakes, and Bunbury are all lined up for the Cantina experience. All it needs to bring this relaxed vibe to your local community is you!

If you want to be part of this spicy new dining culture, franchising opportunities are heating up across Australia. Find out more about how you join the band of Cantina chiefs.